Prosecution Requests To Drop Charges Against Officers, Otieno Family Pleads For Justice

Seven Henrico County Sheriff’s Deputies were charged with second-degree murder over the March 2023 death of Irvo Otieno. Still, in a stunning reversal, prosecutors requested to drop charges for five officers.

This leaves only three officers to face charges for his death currently. As a result, Otieno’s family strongly criticized this decision and renewed their calls for the Justice Department to get involved in the case. 

As the Associated Press reports, on May 5, Judge Joseph Teefy of the Dinwiddie Circuit Court approved a motion from the prosecution to drop–for now– pending charges against five of the deputies who had previously been charged in connection with his death in custody. According to the attorneys involved, the AP reported that the charges could be renewed later. 

At a May 6 news conference, Caroline Ouko, Otieno’s mother, expressed her displeasure at the turn of events. Although the prosecution assured her that it was done with a strategic goal in mind, she still described the motion as a “radical, reckless decision with great ramifications.”

Ouko also renewed the family’s calls for the U.S. Department of Justice to get involved with the case and wants to restore the charges against the officers. 

As NBC News reported, Okuo pleaded for justice at the news conference.

“We hope that the Dinwiddie commonwealth attorney can do her job. And if she is not willing to prosecute the DOJ, where are you? Where are you? The Department of Justice, where are you,” Ouko said as her voice began to break. “It is time. It is time for you to bring your boots to Richmond and stand for Irvo. And get justice for my son.”

A spokesperson for the DOJ responded to NBC News, “We are closely monitoring the state criminal case regarding this matter, and we have no further comment at this time.”

Amanda Mann, a newly appointed Dinwiddie County Commonwealth Attorney, believes that the order in which the preceding interim commonwealth attorney scheduled the order of the defendants’ trials was done in a way that would disadvantage the prosecution’s case, as she wrote in the request that she did not “find the order to be sound and competent prosecutorial decision making.”

Although it is possible to charge the officers again, Russ Stone, a defense attorney for Dwayne Bramble, one of the accused officers, told the AP that such an occurrence is “extremely rare.” Stone continued, “It’s been our position all along that it was prosecutorial overreach” by the initial commonwealth attorney assigned to the case, who he says “charged innocent people without an adequate basis.” Stone added, “And we appreciate that the current commonwealth’s attorney has corrected that.”

Ben Crump, a national Civil Rights attorney and part of the legal team for Otieno’s family, has indicated that he sees parallels between the killing of Otieno and George Floyd, whom he also represented. At the press conference, Crump, who appeared via video conference technology, called for the deputies and Central State Hospital workers who were implicated in the death of Otieno to be “zealously” prosecuted.

Crump also added, “The troubling issue for many of us in the Black community is … we are quick to be prosecuted when we are accused of a crime. However, when we’re the victims of crime by the authorities, there seems to be delay, delay, delay.”

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